Assad Appoints Veteran Syrian Diplomat Faisal Mekdad as Foreign Minister

A strong advocate for tightening ties with Iran and Russia, former Deputy FM Mekdad had been expected to fill the position after his boss died earlier this month

Reuters
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Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad speaks during a news conference in Damascus, Syria, March 10, 2018.
Syria's Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad speaks during a news conference in Damascus, Syria, March 10, 2018.Credit: OMAR SANADIKI/ REUTERS
Reuters

Syria's President Bashar Assad named veteran diplomat Faisal Mekdad as foreign minister on Sunday to replace Walid Moalem, who died last week, state media reported.

Mekdad, 66, had been deputy foreign minister since 2006. He has also held a string of diplomatic posts, including envoy to the United Nations.

Assad also appointed , currently ambassador to the UN, as deputy foreign minister.

Mekdad, like Moalem, is a staunch defender of Assad's bloody crackdown on peaceful protesters in 2011, when thousands took to the streets calling for an end to the Assad family's decades-old authoritarian rule that later erupted into a full-scale civil war.

Moalem at the age of 79, after suffering years of heart problems.

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif phoned Mekdad and congratulated him on his new position, stressing Tehran's "continued strategic cooperation" with Syria, official Iranian media outlets said.

Mekdad is a strong advocate of strengthening ties with Iran and Russia, the two main allies who have helped shore up Assad's rule and allowed him to regain most of the territory he once lost to the armed opposition.

The veteran diplomat has also been the country's main interlocuter with UN and foreign agencies based in Damascus and instrumental in efforts to divert aid to serve 's priorities, UN sources and international aid workers say.

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